What every employer needs to consider in hiring a younger generation
Every generation brings a new challenge to employers. Moving from an agrarian society to industrial society involved heavy training for new skill sets, but there was never a question of work ethic. As the industrial revolution became a worldwide phenomenon, the need for workers created a worldwide displacement of families pursuing job opportunities. During post wartime “the greatest generation” created an entrepreneurial boom. Up to that time most children were part of the working farm or in apprenticeships or other child labor roles. As more children went to school, parent and child roles changed. Less children worked at young ages as the result of the increase in the middle class and prosperity as well as child work rule changes that had some unintended consequences. This was the period parenting roles morphed while high school and college populations grew.
The impact of technology in the last century has added to the velocity of economic change and cultural impact, particularly the transformation of communications and the media. Although there are many challenges to our youth today, the exposure and consistent barrage of information through mobile devices (which also effects adult behavior) is a phenomenon that needs to be recognized as changing the perspectives of a generation in ways not felt since the invention of the automated printing presses and the telephone. The difference to this generation is the 24-hour exposure and immediacy. This has changed the role and impact of parents, peers, facts and opinion, preparing youth differently in their digestion of cultural experiences. For example, definitions and the societal impact of terrorism, narcissism, harassment, overdosing and suicide have evolving meanings. Prior generations enticed by generous pay and benefits as they moved from rural regions and colleges to the manufacturing and corporate world had reasons to work for the “gold watch” There was a focus on stability, young marriages and starting families and creating a better life for the next generation. There was a focus on the future.
Employers are adjusting to a new generation with little training in time management and thrust into an overwhelming work/life balance. Young job applicants have fewer teenage work experiences, a history of less accountability and less patience for the training and time needed to be ready to perform their job duties. School debt, uncommon to prior generations, results in more financial and emotional burdens than their elders. For many if involvement in an action or activity does not have an understood direct benefit, impact or experiential connection, many choose avoidance or will simply quit. Not that some of these factors had not been prior issues, but today this behavior is much more prevalent. One of the changing paradigms of society today is the higher personalization and customization of so much more in our lives to personal convenience and preferences. The concept that “there is an App for that” is not an exaggeration to expediting many aspects of our lives. Increasingly being bombarded with information and solicitation thru technology and data personalization, we are learning to tune out and filter our lives to that of familiarity. Employers can create an easier lifestyle for balance by providing pickup and delivery services, food truck days and access to local work out facilities. Benefit programs can help pay down loans based on retention as well as Flex spending accounts that allow individualization. These programs cost little to no money. It takes some adjustment, preparation and group negotiated pricing.
In past decades owners walked around the floor and knew everyone’s names. Today self-chosen mentors and family outings are more productive than employee only holiday events. Although personal productivity is improving in many ways, there seems to be less time to complete tasks which creates anxiousness and taxes patience. It could be relegated to an “age thing” but all generations have the same complaint. Harry Chapin’s 1974 song “Cats in the Cradle” listen to Harry capture the generational swing of this prioritization and the emotional stress. This is prevalent in the workplace. An employer assuming most young employees have comparably less workplace experience and have had few time management and accountability experiences other than academics (very structured) and social life (very time consuming), has an opportunity to teach valuable life skills. A pre-orientation program or interval structured supervisor or mentor check-in program introduces for example multi-tasking and education of profitability and productivity. This is needed because it previously was just not relevant to many prior to their post college careers.
The adolescent household experience of the last few decades is different in teen job experience, employment stability, family dinner-table conversation, debt and experiences from travel to volunteerism. This can be seen in families (ex.easier to eat out than prepare), the workplace (ex. outsource to specialization), school (ex. less student involvement on campus) and so many other meaningful parts of our culture and lifestyle. Consider this; Student loans have not been paid off for most young adults. Overall only 57% of the 22 million Americans with federal student loans are current on their payments; 43% are in default (3.6M), delinquent (3.0M) or in forbearance (3.0M). Most students who borrowed federal loans are making interest-only payments on their loans, or no payments at all. For those who graduated between 2006 and 2011, more than 1/3 defaulted on their student loans, subjecting them to garnishments and ruined credit. A greater number took on loans and failed to graduate due to financial challenges; between 2013 and 2016, more than 30% of students failed to settle their balances, triggering institutional holds and collection agencies. As a result, Millennials have fallen behind prior generations on nearly every economic metric. If employers don’t take debt into account, then they will have employees avoiding long term commitment, seeking new opportunities to make a little more and not understanding the values of mutual loyalty and honest communication. Proactive thought of the circumstances that have changed for a younger generation prepares employers for improving retention and the ROI of hiring.